In a briefing on Monday, Treasury Department officials said that the I.R.S. would struggle to promptly answer telephone calls from taxpayers with questions and that a lower level of service should be expected. They blamed Republican legislators, who have blocked efforts to increase funding at the agency, for the lack of resources.
The Biden administration has asked for an additional $80 billion over a decade for the I.R.S. to bolster its enforcement and its customer service capacity, raising its staff by nearly 87,000 employees and upgrading its technology. That request is part of the administration’s Build Back Better Act, which is stalled in Congress. The Treasury Department estimates that enhancing the enforcement powers of the I.R.S. could yield the federal government $400 billion in additional tax revenue over a decade by shrinking the so-called tax gap, or tax money that is owed the government but goes uncollected.
Treasury officials noted that in the first half of last year, fewer than 15,000 employees were available to handle more than 240 million calls — one person for every 16,000 calls.
Although the population of the United States has grown by about 60 percent since 1970 and the tax code has become more complex, the size of the work force at the I.R.S. has been flat, the Treasury Department said. The agency has fewer auditors now than it has employed at any time since World War II.